31 Jul2006

gods1

I was at a bazaar at Fort Bonifacio yesterday and noticed several food vendors selling “Food for the Gods” so I decided to buy several of them and compare them against each other in a Marketmanila taste-test… First of all, these are nothing more than Date & Walnut Bars, so whoever came up with the name “Food for the Gods” was of the “Bicol Express” ilk… great marketing, if you ask me. For a predominantly Catholic country with supposedly only one God, it’s amusing that we would take so readily to a food for the other “Gods”… heehee, I am kidding, of course. If any God had too much of this confection they would sink out of the heavens due to its density and caloric count! As with other popular sweets/desserts/breads, it seems this has also evolved over the years. In the “old days,” say 20 years ago, I only recall the really heavy, very moist, sweet foil wrapped versions that one would keep in the fridge and consume by the square inch at most. Today, things seem to be lightening up and the sweetness quotient is through the roof! Air and sugar in abundance is definitely the evolutionary theme of sweets in the Philippines. I think it is directly correlated with the drop in average household incomes. Here are three commercially purchased versions of this confection and one that I whipped up myself from a Maida Heatter recipe.

First up are Food for the Gods purchased at “Kitchen a la Ching.” Because they sold them in individually wrapped portions, I purchased two of these to taste test at home. gods2Each serving was roughly 30 grams in weight, inclusive of wrapper. Each portion was tightly wrapped in foil paper, then covered in red cellophane. It was kind of like unwrapping a longganisa, in that once opened, the contents of the foil looked positively smushed and abused. A medium dark color, it was dense, heavy and sweet, it had lots of pieces of nuts but I actually couldn’t tell if they were really walnuts. The characteristic undulations of a walnut and their dark skin seemed absent… As I poked through the piece with a fork, I found hardly any chopped dates at all. Bizarrely, some of the parts of the FFTGs actually appeared dryish, almost as though this had been previously frozen or refrigerated or perhaps just wasn’t as fresh as it should have been. The darker color must have been due to brown rather than white sugar, which, if true, should have resulted in a less cloyingly sweet confection. At PHP16 each, this would have cost roughly PHP533 per kilo. Based on this sample, I personally wouldn’t buy from them again.

Next were FFTGs from Mary Grace. Better known for her ensaimadas, she has broadened her product line. At her table, I actually had to ask the sales lady if they sold FFTGs as it did gods3not appear obvious from the products on display. She answered yes and pointed me to these huge pouffy dark brown squares. You would forgive me if my first guess was that they were light colored brownies. Sold in batches of eight in a clear plastic container, they weighed about 250 grams in all (about 32 grams per piece) and cost PHP127 or PHP508 per kilo. They were definitely much more cakey than any of the samples I tried yesterday. They had lots of nuts (though I think they were real walnuts) and just 2-3 puny pieces of chopped dates in the piece that I tried. The darkness of dough could have been from brown sugar and possibly molasses but it made it hard to discern any chopped dates at all. This version was less sweet than others. It was quite airy. The sticker on the top of the plastic container says it all – “Soft to the Bite Just-Baked Freshness…Always” Yipes! Not all baked goods are supposed to be soft to the bite, and certainly I would not apply that description to heavily packed fruit and nut bars or dense brownies for that matter. I would even consider this tag line a stretch for an ensaimada, but then again, Mary Grace has the newer generation airy version compared to the older heavier types of ensaimada. Can you imagine if they made French bread that was “soft to the bite”??? Compared to the previous sample, these were, however, freshly baked. Personally, I wouldn’t buy FFTG from this vendor again.

The third commercial example that I purchased was from St. Clement’s Kitchen. With 12 small portions to a box that weighed 200 grams total (less than 20 grams each per piece)at PHP170, gods4this cost a whopping PHP850 per kilo. This version had a light golden brown color on the surface and throughout the dough. The dough itself was rather airy and while it had lots of walnuts and bigger pieces of dates, the latter were widely spaced. This recipe definitely used white sugar and possibly the egg whites were whipped separately and folded in to give it lightness and volume…or some other bakers tricks were applied. This lacked the characteristic density of traditionally crafted fruit/nut bars…but it did taste pretty good. It was the sweetest of the three versions that I purchased. It was correctly sized very small as the richness meant you could only eat so much at one time. Nicely packaged in a small box, these were the best of the three FFTGs I bought. I would possibly buy these again if I had a serious craving for FFTGs, but was too lazy to make them myself. Their premium price suggests they know when they have an edge on the rest of the market…

Finally, I decided I should make some FFTG myself once I got home (particularly since I seem to be up the wazoo with dates in stock in the fridge) just so that I could truly gods5compare the bazaar bought vs. real home made. I used a recipe by Maida Heatter (doyenne of cookiedom) and the result was a truly fruit and nut filled bar that was dense, flavorful and not overly sweet. The essence of dates was palatable and the crunch of nuts a constant feature while you were chewing…as opposed to a crunch/chew punctuation in the more cakey versions of FFTGs. My version was thinner than I would have liked. Next time I will use a smaller pan and make thicker bars, which in turn might be a tad moister as well. I cut the bars too big so you get just a bit too much of a good thing… My 9 x 13 inch pan yielded 24 large bars that weighed 750 grams total and couldn’t have cost more than PHP250-300 to make or PHP325-400 per kilo. And with two generous cups of pitted and chopped Medjool dates and two generous cups of chopped walnuts, the resulting bars had 2-3 times the amount of nuts and dates compared to the commercially purchased versions. They had practically no cake. I would definitely make this again, and use the savings to purchase a lot of commercial brownies for sale out there…some of which look positively terrifying.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. Lei says:

    Once again, I was laughing myself silly on your comments/jokes in your intro.

    Yeah, it is frustrating to see so many commercial brownies that do not even appear visually good, not to mention the taste. And oh, how about those fruitcakes that have been murdered beyond any help? To the point that most people associate them with being terrible when in fact a well made one is so good and satisfying.

    Jul 31, 2006 | 11:43 am

     
  2. millet says:

    yo, obese gods falling out of the heavens! hohoho…why won’t the vision leave me? i need a sugar fix, fast!

    Jul 31, 2006 | 11:53 am

     
  3. Maricel says:

    The best FFTG I’ve ever come across was from a Maur Lichauco recipe, rich, buttery with lots and lots of dates and walnuts.

    Jul 31, 2006 | 12:00 pm

     
  4. Juls says:

    If you were to be really lazy, eating the dates and the walnuts together would be a great treat by itself.

    Jul 31, 2006 | 12:20 pm

     
  5. Apicio says:

    It did not scape my attention that the “soft to the bite” portion of her slogan set you off a bit too. Next only to sweetness, softness seems to be the abiding quality everybody is looking for in any baked goods here for over two generations now. The slanderous pan de sal available here (that looks even more malignantly pityful because Canada produces the best hard winter wheat flour anywhere) amply meets those two requirements by a long shot. Crusty bread and rolls are actuallly very recent taste preference here, almost invariably ethnic (as witness their common designation French and Italian) and still barely able to join the soft to squeeze sliced white loaf of the mainstream.

    I followed a recipe close to that of Nora Daza that called for cracker crumbs and whipping the white for my FFTG for the longest time until I came accross a treat brought to office by an Indian colleague. A mixture of softened cooking dates and pieces of roasted walnuts pressed into a roll thinner than a Pringle cylinder and rolled on sesame seeds that can be prepared even more fanciful by substituting blanched pistacios for the walnuts. Quite eye catching too since it is served sliced crosswise like salami but I never got the correct name. Could very well be FFT Hindu Gods.

    Jul 31, 2006 | 12:32 pm

     
  6. maria says:

    it’s amazing how many versions of one tasty sweet can be found in the marketplace. the best ones are the ones baked at home, for sure. after all, all the financial cost one has to mind are the ingredients and the oven’s energy consumption. i’ll be checking out maida heatter. sounds a bit like mad hatter. is that a pseudonym? just curious. waddle down the lung center sunday market if you can…there might be nameless baked goods which might surprise your palate. hint, hint. :)

    Jul 31, 2006 | 4:42 pm

     
  7. abster says:

    YUUUM… :)

    I positively adore FFTG’s–although basing from the way I praise them, some people say I love butterscotch with dates and walnuts and not real FFTG’s. (Because I adooore butterscotch.)

    What does a real FFTG taste like? And do you have a tested recipe you’d care to share? :)

    Jul 31, 2006 | 10:41 pm

     
  8. Bay_leaf says:

    i make these during Christmas time (mine look like the St. Clement’s Kitchen version), wrap them in those colorful cellophanes made in the Philippines, put it in a tin box, they make great presents! :)

    Jul 31, 2006 | 10:59 pm

     
  9. goodtimer says:

    mm, share us your recipe! i’m a big FFTG fanatic. tried sooo many recipes already, but i can’t seem to get the right combination, the really wickedly deadly, sticky, buttery chunky kind of bar.

    Aug 2, 2006 | 2:27 pm

     
  10. Marketman says:

    goodtimer, two or three posts later, I put the recipe I used…

    Aug 2, 2006 | 4:21 pm

     
  11. Didi says:

    I loved the FFTG of Estrell’s Caramel Cakes.. Maybe you can try it out! :)

    Aug 2, 2006 | 6:12 pm

     
  12. alden says:

    hi, bought a box of FFTG sa may Forbes, kay Baby Yulo i think namin binili…it costs around 900 pesos for a box of around 48 pieces. im not a avid fan of FFTG but when i tasted it, grabe, it was really good… you should try it! :D

    Aug 21, 2006 | 8:58 pm

     
  13. food_fan says:

    Have you tried Donna’s Pastries FFTG? She sells from home. Our family has been ordering from her for years. Maybe you can try it out. :)

    Oct 22, 2006 | 10:10 am

     
  14. harry says:

    can anyone give me (email me) the name, address, contact number, of the bakeshops you mentioned that make fftg? (and price as well of how much u bought it)

    ;p

    Dec 14, 2006 | 11:30 pm

     
  15. Marketman says:

    harry, I purchased all of the commercial ones at the Karl Edward bazaar at the Fort many months ago…that bazaar is now on-going daily if I am not mistaken, so you can find the suppliers there…sorry, I don’t have their phone numbers. At any rate, the stuff is easy to make…I have a recipe for it in the archives…

    Dec 14, 2006 | 11:42 pm

     
  16. harry says:

    marketman, thank you that was a quick response, it’s my uncle who is looking for commercial ones to give away this Christmas, by any chance should you come upon their contact details pls. email me thanks :)

    Dec 14, 2006 | 11:50 pm

     
  17. chick says:

    i like the one from conti’s..

    Aug 16, 2007 | 3:08 pm

     
  18. Felita says:

    Hi,

    I would like to know the recipe for the FFTGs from Mary GraceFood for the Gods.

    Thanks.
    Felita

    Sep 28, 2007 | 2:47 pm

     
  19. Marketman says:

    Felita, I don’t have that recipe, and I don’t think Mary Grace would really want to share it if she sells them for a living. :)

    Sep 28, 2007 | 3:12 pm

     
  20. susan says:

    Please email me your food for the gods recipe by Maida Heatter
    thanks

    Nov 10, 2007 | 11:38 pm

     
  21. Marketman says:

    susan, the recipe is described here. Enjoy!

    Nov 11, 2007 | 6:35 am

     
  22. cg wu says:

    id like u to try my version of fftg.. let me know where i can send them. thanks!

    Jul 11, 2008 | 1:46 am

     
  23. grechen says:

    hi,every year i make fftgs for our own consumption and also for my daugther’s gift for the teachers you know hard times have to save a little but with my version i dont think i save coz when i bake i don’t scrimped on ingredients. everyone who tasted my version always begged for some more or otherwise if i can sell them.starting this year i think i will start selling them. also just yesterday i made one with pili nuts and it is sooo good. the pili nuts taste so close to macadamia nuts really yummy but better watch for those fats!!

    Oct 20, 2008 | 8:33 am

     
  24. glenn says:

    Hi, I’m an amateur homebaker. I would like to try to bake fftg. Can you be generous enough to share your recipe..Thanks in advance!!!

    Apr 21, 2009 | 11:38 pm

     
  25. Marketman says:

    glenn , I used a Maida Heatter recipe, and if you go a few comments back up, there is a link to it.

    Apr 22, 2009 | 6:52 am

     
  26. Janice says:

    Hey food fan, can you provide me contact numbers of Donna’s pastries? Thanks!

    Jul 14, 2009 | 1:53 pm

     
  27. anna says:

    hi, ive been searching for the best fftg recipe…i could not seem to find it…tried a lot of recipes already- but seems to be missing something….perhaps you could help me! i wanted the moist kind of fftg…thanks! looking forward…

    Aug 2, 2009 | 9:47 am

     
 

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